45th Anniversary Edition of The Handbook of Biblical Numismatics

Mel Wacks, The Handbook of Biblical Numismatics. 45th anniversary edition. Woodlands Hills, 2021. 21.6 x 27.9 cm, 119 pp., full color. Paperback. ISBN: 978-0-578-81065-2. $29.50.
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Mel Wacks has published the “45th Anniversary Edition of the Handbook of Biblical Numismatics.” It is greatly expanded from the original 1976 book, and features over 150 coins in full color, 20 maps, and over 50 Biblical quotes. Readers will also find enlarged photos of small coins and estimated coin values by Ira Goldberg. While it is still easily read by the novice, it also contains the latest theories of experts in the field on controversial subjects like the bud (pomegranate or poppy?) appearing in between double cornucopia on Hasmonean coins, the vessel (chalice or pot of manna?) and budding plant (pomegranates or Aaron’s rod?) on First Revolt Shekels, the star (Bar Kochba = “Son of the Star” or the golden candelabrum donated by Queen Helena) above the Temple on the sela’im issued during the Second Revolt, etc. The coins mentioned in the New Testament also receive attention – the Widow’s Mite, Tribute Penny and Thirty Pieces of Silver.

Chapters are generally preceded by expert maps, and cover the Hasmoneans, Herodians, Prefects/Procurators, First Revolt, Judaea Capta, Second Revolt, etc. Readers will also learn about the Herodian Kings of Armenia, the Jewish Princess Salome, and the connection between Cleopatra and Judaea. There was so much text that it burst out to seven appendices, including Ancient Hebrew Coin Inscriptions, The Holy of Holies on Ancient Judaean Coins, Roman Tenth Legion Counterstamps, and False Shekels.

The bud between the double cornucopia is discussed controversial. Is it a poppy or a pomegranate?

Designing the 120-page opus was done by Lianna Spurrier through the generosity of the Newman Numismatic Portal. Noted collector and philanthropist Hon. Abraham Sofaer contributed this blurb on the Handbook’s back cover: “Somehow, Mel has managed to provide a work that is succinct without being superficial; that summarizes all the important material rather than limiting coverage through exclusion; and that simplifies complicated issues without compromising their difficulties. In pulling off this achievement, Mel has provided a practical, take-along, guide. Every important period is covered, and every significant coin type illustrated. Rather than attempting to supersede other types of books, Mel gives us all – collectors, scholars, and intelligent observers alike – something to use anywhere to identify coin types and context, read inscriptions, and even have some idea of value. Even a novice will be able quickly to learn and appreciate this aspect of Jewish history, and the history of other cultures with whom the Jewish People have interacted. The Handbook is thus a must have for the tutored and beginner alike.”


“The Handbook of Biblical Numismatics, 45th Anniversary Edition” is available from Amazon. It can be read free of charge on the Newman Numismatic Portal.

Read more about Mel Wacks in his Who is Who-entry.